The Gift of Prophecy
The Scriptures testify that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant church and we believe it was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G White. Her writings speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort, guidance, instruction and correction to the Church. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. (Numbers 12:6; 2 Chronicles 20:20; Amos 3:7; Joel 2: 28,29; Acts 2:14-21; 2 Timothy 3:16,17; Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 12:17; 19:10; 22:8,9.)
Prophecy is a gift. Not so much for prophets though. For us. For you and me, and everyone to whom the special messages from God are addressed.
For the messengers, the gift of prophecy is a privilege and a burden. They hear from God directly, seeing what others haven’t—a taste of heaven or the future unfolded before their eyes. But their gift comes up against unbelief, trouble and persecution. The overwhelming weight of their responsibilities clashes with misunderstanding and people’s distorted expectations.
Prophets are human. Yet, despite their failures, this gift—God’s revelations communicated to us—has been in action across the ages, changing the lives of both messengers and recipients.
I’m part of the latter group.
My mother was a granddaughter of Adventist pioneers in a rural part of southern Brazil. However, my father was not an Adventist, and our home was more than 600 kilometres from any Adventist relatives. On Sabbath, Mum would faithfully take my brother and I to Sabbath School. After we arrived home, Dad—with good intentions—would take us to the shops and pick a cartoon for us to watch.
Mum would teach us principles like Leviticus 11, then later at a barbecue with friends, Dad would give me pork sausage to try. The differences in worldview permeated my childhood in a place surrounded by non-practising Catholics and Protestants.
Right at the critical time when I left childhood, between the ages of 12 and 15, God touched my heart deeply. I started to read the Bible. I wanted to understand what it means to live with Him, by faith, in our age. I searched all shelves and cabinets at home for Christian literature—until I found a book printed 30 years earlier, with Jesus on the cover. It was a daily devotional compiled from Ellen White’s writings.
Despite outdated Portuguese, the content spoke to my young mind and inspired my early walk with God.
Visiting my grandmother soon after, I found an old volume of Messages to Young People. It had belonged to my grandfather who had died when I was little. I flicked through the old brown pages coloured by his highlights, made 50 years earlier. Handwritten notes filled the margins. I was moved. I could read my grandad’s thoughts from the time he was young and single. The book became a treasure as I got to know God, the Bible and my grandfather better. Half a century apart, we both learned counsel that encouraged and strengthened us to live according to the Bible in our youth.
That experience shaped my faith. I kept reading other titles from the Spirit of Prophecy collection during the challenging years of peer pressure in high school and college. Right when I was most vulnerable, they prevented me from going through many troubles that other adolescents experience. [pullquote]
The messages helped me to be kind and bold in my new Christian life, boosted my learning and character development. Even Dad acknowledges that. Those writings are a precious gift, changing not only me, but also my family’s lifestyle and future for good. “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets and you will be successful” (2 Chronicles 20:20). One of the most climactic and powerful chapters of the Bible, this passage illustrates what prophecy is about. When we think about the gift of prophecy, we often read it as a talent or supernatural power. But it’s more than that. It’s a wonderful, thoughtful and gracious gift that God has provided to communicate with and bless His people, in the most decisive moments—to remind us that yes, we have a stand to make, but the battle is His.
The main purpose of prophecy is not to forecast. 1 Corinthians 14:3 tells us “the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort”.
So how is this gift relevant today? In my own personal life:
• Listening to the gift of prophecy helps me to be bold and brave. Especially against evil. In the same spirit of courage shown by Nathan before David (2 Samuel 12) and Elijah before King Ahab (1 Kings 18), I’m inspired to face sin and repent. Here I am not referring to pointing fingers at other people’s flaws. I’m challenged to be defiant against my own temptations, my own tendency to judge others, my own sinful nature and stand against the choices that separate me from God.
• It helps me to be alert in the present and prepare for the future. Studying the prophecies of Daniel and John enables us to discern the times we live in and our role. There’s a reason why God unfolded the succession of empires to the final chapter of Earth’s history and what happens with Christianity before Jesus’ second coming. Most recently, He emphasised the great controversy between good and evil in panoramic visions given to Ellen White. Learning those revelations helps us to understand our heritage and not be deceived.
• It tells me that my limitations are not a barrier to serve God and His mission. None of the prophets were perfect. No matter how great their responsibility, God chose people to share His vision despite their weaknesses and flaws. Despite God’s answer “I will be with you”, Moses and other giants of faith still hesitated. Abraham lied about his wife twice. Jonah, Jeremiah and Elijah complained after witnessing God’s incredible care in action. But He didn’t give up on them, and they accomplished their mission.
• It’s a gift for our emotional, physical and spiritual health. The health reform vision given to Ellen White amazingly shows how much God cares for our wellbeing. I remember the impact of reading a National Geographic feature article in 2005, portraying Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda as some of the happiest and healthiest people on the planet. Living the health message given to Mrs White can result in 12 more years of life than an Adventist who does not follow the counsel. God is offering us not only abundant life, but vitality to be a blessing to others.
• It draws me closer to Jesus. That is the ultimate purpose of all prophecies: to connect us to the eternal gospel. In the lyric representation of the Messiah in the Psalms, in the moved proclamation of John beholding the Lamb of God right in front of him, from the most ancient announcement of redemption to the beautiful words of Steps to Christ, messengers of all ages have revealed to us different aspects of the one and only Saviour.
As Graeme Bradford wrote in Prophets are Human, “It’s like a tapestry. If you look at one side, you’ll see what appears to be a mess with pieces of material going in all directions. And that’s how it appears when you begin to consider how God impresses His messengers. But if you look on the other side, at the finished product, you find a beautiful picture. God has used many different ways to paint a picture of His Son for us. We ought not to
get too hung up on looking at how He has done this. Our main concentration should be on looking at the beautiful portrait of His Son.”
God knows how easily we forget. Prophecy is a gift of God’s mercy, pointing to a Father who does not leave His children walking in the dark. He gives us the amount of light we need, according to the path we are on. He sends us warnings and the opportunity to move from our own doom, as He did when He saved Nineveh, as He did with Israel. Prophets are spokespersons of God to shepherd His people at times when they are in danger of getting lost. “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren. You must listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15).
Through prophecies, God gives us the gift of changing our future. Are we listening?
Mariana Venturi is a video producer for Adventist Media.